Do you know where your thyroid is? Many don’t, but it is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck below your adams apple.
It is vital for both energy and metabolism as every cell in your body has thyroid receptors. You may not be aware of it, but having an underactive thyroid can have a number of debilitating effects for women – and we have 10 times the risk of low thyroid than men do.
Uncovering thyroid issues can be tricky as there are more than just the obvious and well known signs to look out for.
What are the signs?
The most well known are weight gain, cold sensitivity and ongoing fatigue but women who suffer from one common symptom are often experiencing 3–4 lesser–known symptoms that also signal hypothyroidism, or sluggish thyroid.
Women tend to put down many thyroid symptoms to their hormones, more specifically to menopause, but at any age they can slow down your metabolism. The thyroid plays an active part in almost every system of your body, so it’s vital to have some awareness of what to look for. Unfortunately, many women have thyroid tests that show “normal” hormone levels, but they still suffer from symptoms.
The late Dr John Lee – the pioneer of bioidentical progesterone usage, always advocated that women were the best observers of their symptoms and should trust their instincts when they feel something is not right – even if a test says that everything is ok.
Apart from the common ones already mentioned there are five key areas than can also be affected by an underactive thyroid.
1 Skin symptoms – these include yellowing of palms and soles of the feet (this happens when beta-carotene builds up without enough thyroid hormone to convert it to vitamin A), hives and psoriasis (skin redness and itching)
2 Skeletal & muscular symptoms – commonly muscle aches or spasms, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and psoriatic arthritis
3 Mental symptoms – you may notice mental dullness or brain fog, a level of depression and feelings of melancholy
4 Reproductive symptoms – these are of major concern for younger women. There may be menstrual irregularities including absence of periods, infrequent periods or abnormally heavy periods and cramps, and of course infertility.
5 Digestive symptoms – the least recognised as they seem so ‘ordinary and everyday’ and can be seen in constipation or hard bowel movements every two days at most.
What Can You Do?
You can start with a blood test from your doctor and then generally the prescribe medication, but there are natural ways to support the thyroid and one of the most effective is with bioidentical natural progesterone.
Dr John Lee wrote that he was very surprised in his own medical practice with the much greater numbers of women than men taking thyroid supplements.
He also noticed that these women were suffering from oestrogen dominance, where their oestrogen levels are not in balance with their progesterone as happens after menopause, or a hysterectomy.
Supplementing with bioidentical natural progesterone to correct this situation rebalanced their hormones and he also found that it was then common to see their need for thyroid medications reduced.
There are also simple dietary measures you can check such as reducing caffeine and sugar, including refined carbohydrates like flour, which the body treats like sugar.
As protein transports thyroid hormone to all your tissues you need to ensure a good ratio of it in your diet from organic meat and fish, nuts and nut butters and eggs.
Don’t eliminate fat from your diet, you need it as cholesterol is the precursor to hormonal pathways so a fat-free or low-fat diet can make hormonal imbalance worse. Healthy fats include olive oil, avocados, flax seeds, oily fish, full fat cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese.
Dietary problem foods
There are some foods that can interfere with thyroid function and these need to be reduced.
They include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, turnips, millet, spinach, strawberries, peaches, watercress, peanuts, radishes, and soybeans.
They have less effect if cooked and in the presence of Hashimoto’s thyroid disorder, the body will also see offending or inflammatory foods as an invader and will up the ante on the autoimmune response.
Tackling oestrogen dominance is the first place to start so look at your diet and your hormone balance.
Progesterone definitely can help low thyroid issues and is safe to take with thyroid medication.